With the year coming to an end, many take this time to reflect on this year’s events. Still, a few semiconductor developers are eagerly awaiting the start of 2022 as the year that GaN technology overthrows the mighty silicon.
With overwhelming amounts of data pouring into data centers, profit, lower energy consumption, and a reduction in CO2 emissions leads the way for considering GaN technology over silicon. Image used courtesy of GaN Systems
Power consumption has been the main focal point for designers to overcome and address in developing next-generation power electronics.
With power consumption in mind, designers have to be diligent in choosing the appropriate structure for an IC and envisioning how that decision will impact power supplies down the road.
A recent article from GaN Systems, a semiconductor developer known for an extensive portfolio of GaN transistors, has shared its 2022 predictions (based on decades of research) on how GaN could impact the power industry.
Consumer electronics has demanded fast charging, high-definition audio, and more energy-efficient designs. GaN Systems believes GaN technology will make a big splash from the jump of 2022 by proving the adaption of GaN technology is needed for the digital world to continue to improve.
With the amount of e-waste not dissipating in 2021, another prediction is that consumer electronics that switch to GaN technology could deliver more value and lead to a reduction in discarded phones, speakers, and charging supplies.
One further prediction for the impact of GaN in 2022 involves data centers and how utilizing GaN would help reduce CO2 emissions and improve sustainability.
The last prediction believes that GaN could change the electric vehicle (EV) with GaN-based systems removing silicon from EV batteries and fast-charging technology. Designers could achieve smaller, power-dense, lightweight, and energy-efficient solutions.
These GaN predictions seem to align with what GaN Systems plans to develop in the coming year; however, they are not alone. STMicroelectronics and EPC are a couple of semiconductor developers looking to push GaN technology as well.
With the future trends of GaN in mind, let’s round up some of the last GaN advances of 2021.
ST Introduces STPOWER GaN Portfolio
Though STMicroelectronics (ST) has a wide range of silicon-based ICs for power electronics, ST has recently jumped on the GaN wagon by introducing their first line of power GaN products for more energy-efficient, thinner, sleeker power supplies.
ST’s STPOWER GaN transistor portfolio. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
The new STPOWER portfolio includes GaN transistors which claim to reduce energy usage and allow for slimmer designs for more energy-efficient consumer devices such as chargers and power adapters, LED drivers, and smart home devices.
The improved intrinsic characteristics of switching to GaN could improve power consumption and energy dissipation in:
- Telecom power supplies
- Industrial motor drives
- Solar inverters
The first STPOWER transistor is the SGT120R65AL, a 650 V, 15 A e-mode with a very high-switching speed, Kelvin source pad for the gate driver, and high power density.
Edoardo Merli, the GM of the Power Transistor Macro-Division and VP of STMicroelectronics’ Automotive and Discrete Group, shared ST’s vision for the new year is to work on commercializing GaN-based products and that they are excited to see the benefits this technology could bring.
GaN Systems Innovations: LED Drivers to “World’s Smallest Charger”
GaN Systems not only shared its predictions for 2022 but also new consumer devices that showcase GaN in full force with a new LED lighting driver, a Syng Alpha Cell speaker, and the world’s smallest charger.
SYNG’s Cell Alpha Audio Speaker utilizes GaN Systems’ power transistors and avoids the need for a heat sink setup. Image used courtesy of GaN Systems
LED drivers are not just for a decorative holiday lighting system but can be used for smart homes that utilize LED-controlled bulbs all year long.
What made the switch from incandescent to LED years back was because of energy efficiency and the lowered energy bills. Aiming to build on that, power drivers for lighting systems have to be evaluated each year and improved, leading to Philips integrating GaN Systems’ GaN driver into its latest LED lighting systems.
The GaN Systems’ 650 V transistors help Philips eliminate the need for any external power supply while producing 17–26 W.
Within these smart home systems, there are various audio devices such as smart speakers that require high power consumption.
GaN Systems collaborated with Syng Audio to develop a Class-D audio GaN speaker, the Cell Alpha, which was recognized by TIME and will be showcased at 2022’s CES.
Syng utilized GaN technology by having a small footprint to work with and requiring minimal heat dissipation. GaN transistors can meet those design specifications as well as eliminate the need for a cooling system.
The last highlight was GaN Systems’ tiny GaN-based charger, an industry first, with capabilities of producing up to 240 W of power. These GaN chargers will be lightweight and target Dell, Philips, Harman, and many others to meet the demand for small, sleek, and power-efficient systems.
EPC Wraps Up 2021 With GaN Power Conversion
To wrap up 2021’s GaN innovations is a power conversion technology that could now incorporate GaN-on-silicon to shrink the footprint and improve efficiency in motor drives.
Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) has brought enhancement-mode, GaN-based (eGaN) power management to the semiconductor table. Its latest power converter IC is a 65 A, ePower Chipset offers a smaller option for high power density applications like DC-DC conversion and motor drives.
Overview image of EPC’s 100 V ePower chipset. Image used courtesy of EPC
The EPC23101 also has an integrated half-bridge driver to help provide a steady flow of current for the device as it converts from low to high sides.
The EPC2302, on the other hand, can handle 24 V to 60 V motor drivers and can easily be integrated into solar maximum power point tracking (MPPT) converters for PV designs.
These solutions are packaged in a 3 mm x 5 mm size to fit smaller motor drivers and converters.
Bringing in a GaN New Year
Will 2022 be the final chapter for silicon?
No, probably not.
Still, after reading through GaN Systems’ predictions and seeing other leading GaN developers showcase their next-generation of devices, it is safe to say that GaN is ramping up to make a bigger case for itself as a major semiconductor material, especially in the world of power devices.
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